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Re: st: RE: The not so humble pie

From   David Bell <>
To   "" <>
Subject   Re: st: RE: The not so humble pie
Date   Wed, 21 Oct 2009 14:47:16 -0400

When we used to prepare data summaries to go to the Texas legislature, we used to refer to them (internally) as "Bubba graphs." For displaying data simple enough to be understood by a legislator, pie charts worked fine. Precision was not the goal. We did not ask anyone to compare across pie charts.

David C. Bell
Professor of Sociology
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
(317) 278-1336

On Oct 21, 2009, at 12:44 PM, Nick Cox wrote:

Thanks for the thanks.

Being rude about pie charts is all good fun and, for many of us, an acceptable variant on blood sports. But if precise decoding of proportions is the aim, then tables beat pie and bar charts hand down, or the actual numbers can just be added to the graph!

One major objection to pie charts is that their effectiveness breaks down very rapidly as displays depart only slightly from extreme simplicity. You need only think about comparing 30 category proportions across 3 pie charts, or 10 categories across 10 pie charts, to realise that.

Irrelevantly, but it just sprang to mind: Some of you may enjoy this algorithm, probably known throughout history, for sharing a pie (cake, whatever) between two children. One child gets to cut and the other gets to choose.


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